Hello! Welcome to the first edition of my bi-monthly speculative poetry roundup. In this roundup, I will be highlighting some of my favorite speculative poetry being published in magazines today. There’s a great deal of fantastic SFF poetry getting published, but much of it goes underread.
Most of these poems became publicly available to read in March and April of 2023, besides Star*Line which is the official magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association and can be individually purchased or subscribed to.
Without further ado, here are 30 of my favorite speculative poems of the past 3 months, from 16 different magazines, in no particular order.
Mycocosmos by Eva Papasoulioti in Eye to the Telescope 48
One of the many poems published on fungi in the 48th issue of Eye to the Telescope. This one reminded me of the fungi-infected remains in Annihilation (2018), only less horror: humans intermingling with mycelium, “spores in dialogue with our bodies”. An interesting interpretation of the theme.
Flesh of the Gods by L B Limbrey in Eye to the Telescope 48
Another poem I really liked in this issue of ETTT re-imagines fungi as the flesh of gods. It has a mythological feel to it, and it was a fun exercise to envision the civilization in which this story is told, where fungi dominates the environment and life.
Helen after Helen by Rasha Abdulhadi in Apparition Lit 22
Greek mythology meets Arabian Nights as two classic beauties are contrasted, showing the difference in how the storytellers look at each character. A refreshing poem that invites you to imagine both in a different way!
The Music of Birds in Exile by Ewa Gerald Onyebuchi in Uncanny Magazine
A beautifully enigmatic and heartfelt elegy of a mother. We are allowed a brief glance in the memories of a mourning boy, […]
Idemili by Somto Ihezue in Strange Horizons
I am always charmed by lesser known stories of international folklore. Idemili, Python of the Sea, a sea goddess of the Nnobi people, is the subject of this multi-language poem. In this poem, it’s a god you almost feel like you can touch.
Possession of the Farmer’s Son by J. Federle in Strange Horizons
Past turns to present turns to future in this story of possession by a slightly uncommon possessor, the fox. I loved its use of metaphors and the powerful ending. This poem does so many different things at the same time yet is very easy to read. So impressive!
In a country where history is only a memory that has grown older by Michael Imossan in Strange Horizons
A unique meta-poem that is also fragments of the script of a play, utilized to its fullest to tell a story both personal and political. An interesting concept executed very well!
Urban Legends of the Ohio River by Laura Grothaus in Strange Horizons
Ten connected “urban legends” relating to a river and its witch. I loved its sense of longing and the earnest message it tells.
Some Facts are Difficult to Discuss by M. E. Silverman in Strange Horizons
Silverman uses nebulae and stars to reflect on mortality and childhood in this poem that almost humanizes the cosmos. Delightful.
Tower of Owls by Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan in The Deadlands
The Deadlands has been publishing some very strong and varied poetry for a while now but this is one of my favorites of the past few issues. Beautiful imagery of owls in a body to ruminate on grief. I loved how effortless this poem seemed, yet so stunning.
Notes from the Far by Yuliia Vereta in Solarpunk Magazine
We get to read some notes from some robot on a distant planet who relates to us this strange world and the way it works- a different kind of civilization. It is subtly solarpunk, a peculiar story, essentially a robot’s retirement. Intrigued me.
Solar Punks by J. D. Harlock in The Dread Machine
“Forget fighting and forget forgiveness”– at once bitter and hopeful. I am not usually big on alliterative poetry, but it works quite well here. But then I have a penchant for radical poetry, which this is, yet managing to be quite “fun” as well.
Tale of the Beast by Anuja Mitra in Haven Speculative
One of two favorites in an especially strong issue of Haven Spec. This little feminist poem questions the male gaze via the perspective of a woman slash sorceress slash beast. The way people view you changes you, and you change them in turn.
Picture This by Monica Louzon in Haven Speculative
Louzon invites you to picture a conjuring water-based image of someone saying goodbye. Because sometimes, all you can do is say goodbye. Wonderful, hard-hitting feelings from this gentle message.
How to Rebloom after the Frost by Anna Madden in Orion’s Belt
A how-to-guide, telling you to follow the butterflies into something quite wonderful occurring in the trees of dawn. The more I read, the more I loved the language and the story of this poem.
A Dryad Reborn by Gerri Leen and Deborah D. Davitt in Frozen Wavelets 8
Very short yet packing a punch. A dryad is reborn, and there is magic in the act of beholding. Not a single word goes wasted here. Out of all the poems on this page, it may be the one I’ve re-read the most.
Coins for the Departed by Rasha Abdulhadi in Heartlines Spec
Heartlines Spec has been a very welcome new platform in the SFF market with an exceptionally strong debut issue. I adored all of the poems in this issue (which is rare for any magazine!) but this one captured my imagination the most. Abdulhadi beautifully manages to describe the feeling of heartbreak, of mourning a relationship, in a very well-realized metaphor.
The Qilin Visits the Zoo by Mary Soon Lee in Penumbric
Mary Soon Lee never misses and she beautifully manages to use this mythical creature to tell a slice-of-life story that seems like it’s right out of “The Sign of the Dragon”. By the end of this poem, I felt a real sense of empathy towards the visiting qilin, and I found myself wondering about its further adventures.
Beyondness by Lorraine Schein in Penumbric
Another short one but with some of my favorite lines, even out of context. There’s a surreality to it, abstract images of a mystical beyond.
How to Prepare a Mermaid’s Voice for Serving by Hayley Stone in Kaleidotrope
Another delightful how-to! It was a strong poem from the start and became masterful with the chef’s note. I’m not quite sure what makes this poem work so much for me, but I keep coming back to it. The structure of it, the theme, the execution– all excellently done.
Hands That Cannot Grasp by Daniel Ausema in Kaleidotrope
Ex-humans relate their story of transforming into something unknown, their experiences, motivations and thoughts. Paints a beautiful image from an unconventional perspective. So good!!
On the Shore by Denise Dumars in Abyss & Apex
A far-future story of a being who landed on a planet in hopes of finding a second home. Isolation, alienation, and desperation are key here. Reads like a farewell letter.
Interstellar Wildflower by Samuel Lowd Goldstein in The Future Fire
We have always been very egocentric in believing that aliens would naturally only care about humans if they were seek contact with Earth. Goldstein clearly disagrees and paints a very different picture in this one, re-contextualizing first contact.
Up in the Air by Ian Wiley in Star*Line 46.2
A terrific drabble of a presumed space traveler speaking some animals who refused to come with. Again, this one immediately became a scene playing out in my head. Ominous!
Feathered Eclipse of the Sun by Howard V. Hendrix in Star*Line 46.2
Another bird-related poem, this one instead giving a threatening feel. Clouds of birds, blocking out the sky. I was already sold by the title and enjoyed the poem itself.
Countup by Richard Magahiz in Star*Line 46.2
Again I’m finding trouble in describing what makes this poem work for me. It feels apocalyptic to me, then suddenly mystical, only to come back down to earth in an expected way. It intrigued me.
Requiescat in Pace by Jessica Peter in Star*Line 46.2
Another one that liked upon first read! It remains me of that often-reposted quote about every dead body on the Mount Everest once being a highly motivated person. People live their life to the fullest and then just… end. A stark and well-constructed reminder of our mortality.
Your Arms by Sarah Cannavo in Star*Line 46.2
This one is incredibly short, basically just a sentence, but beautifully told. Not much to say, it’s so short- just read it if you can!
Dispatches from the Dragon’s Den by Mary Soon Lee in Star*Line 46.2
I try to get my hands on every single poem Mary Soon Lee publishes, and this one feels like classic her. A simple and gentle tale that just delights you as you keep on reading. I got a real sense for the protagonist and the dragon he cares for. In the end, the last few lines re-contextualize the whole poem, bringing it all together very nicely, spotlighting a wonderful relationship between two beings.